At 55 years old, Gerrit Pretorius is the oldest member at CrossFit Pretoria.
Gerrit Pretorius joined CrossFit Pretoria a little over seven months ago. At 55 years old, Pretorius became the oldest member at the affiliate. Prior to CrossFit, Pretorius was an active runner. He completed the grueling 87k Comrades Marathon in 9 hours, 41 minutes. That was in 1980; in the 32 years to follow, he did little exercise.
Then he was introduced to CrossFit by his kids.
"They used to tell me about their daily workouts and my reaction was that it was not humanly possible to do all these things,” he says.
Eventually, though, Pretorius decided to give it a shot.
“After two car accidents, I suffered from permanent neck pain and couldn’t sleep. My doctor advised me to go for a vertebral neck fusion,” he says. “I felt that my body was deteriorating and needed to do something about it.”
His first workout was in May 2012. He did a baseline workout with a 400-meter run, then 21-15-9 reps of squats, push-ups and ring rows, then ended with another 400-meter run. His intial thought: “I’m not going to make it.”
But he did finish in 12:45.
"You could see it was a struggle at first, but Gerrit told me he was ready to take on his baseline workout again and was motivated to improve his time and to perform even better,” Chad Theron, owner of CrossFit Pretoria, says.
Pretorius shaved four minutes and five seconds off his initial time when he repeated the workout six weeks later.
“For three months following my first workout, my muscles were constantly sore and stiff, but I loved everything about it from day one,” he says.
Bodyweight exercises are a strength for Pretorius. His accomplishments include conquering double-unders, pull-ups, ring dips and handstand push-ups.
“A highlight for me was completing 100 push-ups for time,” he says.
Aside from the physical, Pretorius finds CrossFit therapeutic.
“One of the aspects I enjoy most is the distraction that workouts provide,” he says. “By counting and focusing on the task at hand, you can lose yourself in the workout and think of nothing or nobody for the duration of the WOD.”
The health benefits of CrossFit have been enormous for Pretorius. After four months, the pins and needles in his neck, numbness in his arms, constant neck pain and poor sleep disappeared.
“Through CrossFit, I eat healthier, sleep better and generally feel better overall,” he says. “My body has definitely grown stronger.”
As the new year begins, Pretorius’ goal is to complete all workouts as prescribed and within a reasonable time.
“The coaches are outstanding and very motivational. They are not sideline coaches, and that, along with their nurturing attitude, will help me to achieve all my goals,” he says.
Pretorius does not feel discriminated against for his age at Pretoria.
He says of the members, “They are nice young people and a big happy family. People are pushing you to perform to the best of your ability, but it is more motivational than intimidating.”